Dems seek to expand House fight one week before midterms

Dems seek to expand House fight one week before midterms

SHAWNEE, Kan. — One week before Election Day, Democrats and Republicans across the country see an expanding battlefield for the House majority that hints at a tumultuous and unsettled environment rocked by political violence and ethnic strife.

The number of seats in play has ballooned, with Democrats seeking to extend the playing field in the hope that a blue wave will develop even in districts across the country that voted more heavily in 2016 for President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE

The largest outside groups backing Democrats have begun sending mail to districts held by Reps. John CarterJohn Rice CarterAmerica's workers and small business owners need the SECURE Act Cornyn faces toughest race yet in changing Texas Texas Republicans sound alarm about rapidly evolving state MORE (R-Texas), Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithDemocratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' MORE (R-Texas), Vern BuchananVernon Gale BuchananMORE (R-Fla.) and Jackie WalorskiJacqueline (Jackie) R. WalorskiProtect American patients and innovation from a harmful MedTech Tax increase We should repeal the medical device tax on veterans Heavy loss by female candidate in Republican NC runoff sparks shock MORE (R-Ind.) and in a seat formerly held by Republican Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFlorida gov says arrested Giuliani associate was seen as a top Trump supporter in the state Backlash erupts at video depicting Trump killing media, critics WHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets MORE in Florida.

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That spending represents an against-the-odds bid to expand the number of opportunities Democrats have to gain seats, according to party strategists familiar with the moves. Most of the districts are the kind of seats that are only likely to be won by Democrats if the wave is big, but the spending points to an underlying confidence for the party.

Republicans, for their part, discount the notion that a real national wave is in the offing, pointing to Trump’s approval rating, which has risen somewhat, and poll numbers that show the Democratic advantage in the so-called generic ballot matchup stagnating or even shrinking.

But to judge by deeds instead of words, even Republicans see a need to shore up vulnerable incumbents and seats once deemed safe.

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Monday moved to purchase late advertising time in districts held by Reps. Jaime Herrera BeutlerJaime Lynn Herrera BeutlerGOP lawmakers offer new election security measure GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine Dems push to revive Congress' tech office MORE (R-Wash.) and Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordGOP presidential challengers condemn decision to host G-7 at Trump resort One person shows up to Trump challenger Mark Sanford's formal 2020 campaign kickoff George Conway donates to Trump challenger Joe Walsh MORE (R-S.C.), who lost his bid for re-nomination in the spring.

The party is even spending on behalf of Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdLawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Democrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony Romney: Trump requesting Biden investigation from China, Ukraine 'wrong and appalling' MORE (R-Texas), an incumbent who once looked like such a safe bet for reelection that Republicans canceled their planned advertising spending there.

Hanging over the final week of the campaign is the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue — the deadliest single incident of violence against Jewish people in U.S. history — as well as the string of package bombings sent to prominent Democrats.

The violence has left much of the country on edge while underlining the stark polarization in politics that seems worse than any period since at least the Vietnam-era 1960s. 

It has also added an unpredictable tinge to the midterm campaign’s last days.

Trump, who railed against the “fake news” media on Monday and warned of an “invasion” from the migrant caravan in Mexico traveling toward the U.S. border, is set to travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

The two parties fighting for control of the House of Representatives are battling across huge swaths of the country, from the North Woods of Maine to the sunny coasts of Southern California, from a suburban Seattle district that includes Mt. Rainier to the conservative Florida Gulf Coast.

For months, Democrats have focused their attention on Republican-held districts in suburban areas, where they hope voters punish an unpopular president’s party. That includes Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Mike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation MORE’s (R-Kan.) district, centered in Kansas City, Kan., where Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Trump campaign to hold rallies in Mississippi, Kentucky Biden struggles to reverse fall MORE won a plurality of the vote in the 2016 presidential election and where voters said they were keenly aware of the choice they faced.

“It’s hard to find an issue that isn’t big,” said Deanna Bucko, after she cast her ballot for Yoder at an early voting station in this suburb of Kansas City.

Democrats have focused much of their campaign on health care, while Republicans have increasingly adopted Trump’s attacks, particularly on immigration.

Many, though not all, Republicans, far from distancing themselves from Trump, have tied themselves to him — and even some members who have taken care to cultivate independent images, like Yoder, have begun to embrace Trump’s dark warnings about the migrant caravan headed toward the southern border.

“I think everyone should be talking about it. It’s a really scary thing. And the word caravan, you can use that all day long, but it truly looks like an invasion of our country,” Lara Trump, a senior advisor to the president’s reelection campaign and Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpDem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Donald Trump Jr. hits back at critics over hypocrisy claims The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions MORE's wife, said in an interview.

To some Democrats, the Republican effort to find a message that works reminds them of 2010, when the GOP reclaimed the majority virtually entirely because of anger at the slow economic recovery and opposition to the Affordable Care Act.

“The cycle definitely feels like 2010 in reverse,” said Shripal Shah, a Democratic strategist who worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2010. “They went from running on a tax plan and daring the opposition to oppose it, then trying to localize inherently national races, to where we are now, scorched-earth negative, and hoping for the best.”

Both parties are racing to spend more money in a significant number of House districts far astray of the typical battleground districts.

The largest super PAC on the Republican side has spent recently in districts held by Reps. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorDemocratic lawmaker invites Republican to town hall after he accuses her of dodging voters on impeachment Former GOP rep launches Senate campaign in Virginia Virginia special prosecutor indicts former GOP campaign staffer MORE (R-Va.) and Ted BuddTheodore (Ted) Paul BuddSEC reforms will save job creators time and money Girls Little League softball champions get invitation to White House House conservatives call for ethics probe into Joaquin Castro tweet MORE (R-N.C.), neither of whom were seen as particularly vulnerable as the cycle began. 

In the final week of the race, the largest Democratic groups are spending money in 64 media markets around the country, according to sources watching the advertising market. Republican groups are spending in 58 markets.

Republicans have been taken aback by the enthusiasm on the Democratic side, one that shows up in campaign finance reports made in the final weeks of the race. Since Jan. 1, Democrats and their supporters have outspent Republican forces by a margin of more than $125 million.

In some of the most hotly contested media markets, like Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., Democratic spending is twice as high as Republican spending. In virtually every market, Democrats are outspending Republicans on television by millions of dollars.

“It obviously looks slightly better on the Democrat side,” Lara Trump conceded.

CORRECTION:A previous version of this story incorrectly listed Republican spending in Wisconsin. The source of that information, Medium Buying, has corrected their information.